Melanoma: Why The Department of Defense Thinks It’s Worth $40 Million in Fiscal 2022.

They put their lives at risk to defend our nation and trust the U.S. Government will provide for their health and well being along the way.  As we honor Veterans and those currently serving in our Military, let’s take a moment to consider an unexpected risk they did not sign up for; death from melanoma and other skin cancers. 

Melanoma diagnosis is on the rise both among veterans and in active duty service personnel. The numbers are especially high among young people currently serving in the Navy, Marines and Air Force. Those who serve as pilots have the highest rate of diagnosis. 

It’s such a problem that the U.S. Department of Defense has targeted and directed 40 million dollars to melanoma research for Fiscal Year 2022.  Why is military personnel, both past and present, at an accelerated for melanoma? Consider this:

Active military are exposed to extensive and dangerous levels of UV radiation while flying in the air, deployed on ships and assigned to remote harsh environments such as deserts. Sunscreen and UPF 50 clothing are not routinely available nor are annual skin screenings through trained dermatologists.  Add to that years in service, and it is no surprise that so much money needs to be poured into treating melanoma and other skin cancers among our military. 

Here’s a thought; wouldn’t melanoma prevention be a better solution; both in terms of life and economics?  After all, melanoma is one of the most preventable of cancers. 

Prevention is as simple as establishing sun safe education training, providing and distributing ample amounts of sunscreen, incorporating the use of UPF 50 materials in U.S. Military uniforms and off duty attire, and most importantly making routine dermatological skin screenings part of annual military health checks. 

The brave men and women defending our country have enough to worry about. Let’s take melanoma and skin cancers off their plate. 

Interested in learning more? Here’s some insight. 

https://www.skincancer.org/blog/skin-cancer-risk-military/

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Claire Marie Foundation Takes NYC!

 

Bright Lights! Big City! On August 17th, CMF lit up Times Square in New York City with plenty of Claire Coral! The Claire Marie Foundation was one of a handful of nonprofits featured in Times Square as part of  National NonProfit Day! Our :15 second commercial ran 100 times in 6 hours – with 1.5 million impressions and thousands of people reached! That doesn’t even count our social media impact!

 Raising awareness of adolescent and young adult melanoma with the knowledge it can be prevented is the heart of CMF’s mission. We can’t imagine a better way to do it! Co-Founder CEO and Claire’s Mom, Marianne Banister, was joined in the big reveal by Claire Marie Board Members, Jaqueline Smith and Julianne Kavoussi as well as Young Professional Ambassadors Sarah Emrich, Becky Kavoussi and Collegiate Ambassadors Molly Sharpe and Anna Sharpe.

The event was especially meaningful for Claire’s mom.  Claire would be SO excited!  She absolutely loved the energy and excitement of New York!  She had so many happy adventures while visiting the city with her sister Hillary and friends. We can only imagine how excited she would be to see the impact of her legacy in Times Square – spreading so much awareness  and hope in the fight against adolescent and young adult melanoma.”

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Screening To Save Your Life! How To Find the Best Dermatologist

We cannot say it enough! Make sure you are screened annually for melanoma and other skin cancers. It is essential to nip melanoma in the bud, halting its ability to move through your body and threaten your life. But who does the screening and how they screen can make all the difference.  Here’s some tips to keep in mind!

Rule #1: Skip Your Primary Care Physician

Surprise! Pediatricians and General Practitioners do not routinely study dermatology in their medical preparation. That means they are not trained to detect skin cancer and melanoma at its earliest point of origin. The result; melanoma is often overlooked or misdiagnosed at the earliest stage when it is most highly treatable – especially in young people.

Rule #2: Find the Right Dermatologist

Before you book your neighbor’s favorite dermatologist, listen to this: not all dermatologists are equally trained nor have equal focus. Some specialize more in the aesthetic and cosmetic care of the skin. Others offer greater attention to the disease aspects of the skin. Then there are those who are equally balanced in both specialties. Do your homework before making an appointment. Sometimes you can get faster access by booking a screening with a Dermatological Physicians Assistant who has been trained specifically in dermoscopy to screen for melanoma. It’s all a matter of a dermatologists training, focus and expertise – and your ability to find the right person for you.

Rule #3: Advocate For Yourself!

Ask a few questions and make sure you are scheduling an appointment with a dermatologist who meets the Gold Standard of skin screening. This is no time to be shy! You should ask about their screening procedures and expect the following:

  • The dermatologist will put you into a gown and do a full body check for moles and any lesions. That includes the feet, nails, head and genital areas. If a dermatologist suggests you don’t need a full body screening because you are “too young for melanoma”- find a new dermatologist
  • Make sure the dermatologist uses dermoscopy. It is a screening technique that uses skin surface microscopy. It can also be called epiluminoscopy and epiluminescent microscopy. It allows the dermatologist to look into the layers, color patterns and changes deep within the mole, rather than just glancing at the surface.  If a dermatologist wants to evaluate your moles with only their naked eye rather than use a dermatoscope – find a new dermatologist.

Rule #4: What If Something Is Found On My Skin?

Finding an atypical or precancerous mole doesn’t mean you have melanoma. But, it does mean something is changing on a cellular level. Since melanoma in adolescents and young adults is more aggressive and more invasive than in the older adult population – it should always be considered a victory to have an atypical mole removed and evaluated before it can evolve further. Remember: Remove the mole – Remove the risk. 

  • If a mole is found to be questionable, the dermatologist will determine if it should be removed for biopsy or if it should be watched. The appropriate time period for “watching” is three months.  You should also keep a close eye on the mole in question and look for any other changes in your skin. Don’t hesitate to call if something evolves and changes before the scheduled follow-up appointment. And keep that appointment!
  • Many dermatologists will photograph moles they want to keep an eye on to best detect any change. Still others may recommend “mole-mapping” technology in families at high risk for the disease. This involves full body photography. 

So in answer to your question – who do I call? Here’s a few names for those in the Mid-Atlantic area and South Carolina. 

Listed below are the amazing ‘Gold Standard” dermatologists who dedicate their time and expertise to the Claire Marie Free Screening Program and meet the highest standards of care.  All are listed in alphabetical order in the two cities we serve as of Fall 2022.   Many are part of the renown teams at Johns Hopkins Dermatology, Simmons-O’Brien & Orlinsky, Belcara Health,  Germain Dermatology, Maryland Dermatology, Skin & Vein, SCSPhysicians, Mercy Medical Center or University of Maryland Upper Chesapeake Hospital. Others are in Private Practice, and extremely attentive to their patient’s care. We are honored, privileged and so very grateful to have them join us in our mission to save young lives. 

Baltimore, Maryland

  • Dr. Melanie Adams, M.D
  • Dr. Karen Beasley, M.D., F.A.A.D
  • Dr. Nicola Bravo, M.D.
  • Dr. Sarah Cannon, M.D.
  • Dr. Bernard Cohen, M.D. 
  • Dr. Sherry Cohen, M.D.
  • Dr. Jennifer Cooper, M.D.
  • Dr. Meg Gerstenblith, M.D.
  • Dr. Anna Grossberg, M.D.
  • Dr. Christian Halvorsen, M.D.
  • Dr. Sarah Hsu, M.D.
  • Dr. Dennis Kurgansky, M.D.
  • Dr. Onah Lauring, M.D.
  • Dr. Mark Lowitt, M.D.
  • Dr. Vadim Gushchin, M.D.
  • Dr. Stanley Miller, M.D.
  • Dr. Diane Orlinsky, M.D. F.A.A.D
  • Dr. Rachel Schleicher, M.D.
  • Dr. Amie Sessa, M.D.
  • Dr. Eva Simmons – O’Brien, M.D., F.A.A.D
  • Dr. Saif Syed, M.D.
  • Dr. Zain Syed, M.D.
  • Dr. Samantha Vincent, M.D.
  • Dr. Margaret Weiss, M.D., F.A.A.D.
  • Dr. Robert Weiss, M.D., F.A.A.D
  • Dr. Sean Wu, M.D.

Charleston, S.C. 

Germain Dermatology

  • Dr. Marguerite Germain, M.D.
  • Dr.Joshua Black, M.D.
  • Louisa Floyd, PA-C
  • Dr. Emily Kmetz, M.D.
  • Lainey O’Donnell, PA-C
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Congratulations to the 2022 Recipient of the Claire Marie Foundation Scholarship in Arts & Design

Congratulations to Brigitte Gendron, the 2022 Recipient of the Claire Marie Scholarship in Arts & Design!

The Notre Dame Preparatory Senior will begin her design studies at Fordham this Fall! Once she gets unpacked and settled, Brigitte is excited to immerse herself in the study of Visual and Concept Arts.  Her dream is to channel all her passion and love of design into a career in the entertainment industry;  in film, television or game design. 

 Every year since 2015, the $5,000 award is given to a graduating senior from Claire’s alma mater, Notre Dame Preparatory School in Towson Maryland to support the recipient’s desire to study design arts in college. It was a dream of Claire’s to launch a career in interior design and we are thrilled to see other young women share the same passion and excitement. Each year, our winners are selected by an exquisite team of esteemed design professionals from across the country! They bring expertise in fine arts, theatrical, animation, interiors, fashion, photography and film. Our thanks to our CMF Scholarship Committee: Katie Fico with Walt Disney Animation Studio, Los Angeles based Interior Designer Stacey Vuduris, Theatrical Designer Timothy Swiss of Los Angeles, Photographer Susannah Dowell of Colorado, Muralist and Freelance Artist Katherine Boggs of Atlanta and Couture Designer Ella Pritsker of Maryland.

Brigitte joins past recipients who have studied in Claire’s memory at University of Ohio at Miami, University of Southern California, Rollins College, University of Virginia ,Savannah College of Arts & Design and University of Maryland Baltimore County. 

Brigitte, all the best in your academic and professional adventures! We can’t wait to see the magic you create to brighten the world!

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Heads Up! Before You Pop a Cool One – Alcohol and Risk of Melanoma

Well, here’s a surprise!

Be careful of what you pull from that icy cooler to quench your summer thirst! New research indicates that drinking alcohol can actually make your skin burn in the sun more quickly and more severely! And it’s not just because imbibing may distract you from reapplying sunscreen as often as needed! The alcohol changes your skin on the cellular level, lowering levels of carotenoids and deregulating your immune system.  Dermatologist Dr. Niyati Sharma explains the German study. “One standard drink increases your risk of melanoma by about 20%. If you drink five beers the risk goes up by 55%”.

All this is even more reason to be smart in the sun! Pay attention to the basics! Reapply sunscreen – a shot glass size of liquid sunscreen every two hours, wear UPF50 clothing to offer added protection and get an annual skin screening! Plus – keep an eye out for any unusual changes. 

Here’s a look at the entire article! https://bit.ly/3Pb3Mo4

Above all else – be smart and safe when it comes to both the sun and alcohol! Have a terrific summer!

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Here’s Your Summer Mantra: Sun Care Is Self Care

As we shake off the remnants of the Covid Pandemic, we’re ready to get back to normal – whatever “normal” may be. It’s time to dive into the good stuff! Finally! Make up for lost time! Hang with friends!  Have some fun! Getting a skin screening may not be on the top of that to-do-list. But stay with me for just a minute and I’m going to tell you why it should be; why giving up 10 minutes on a sunny Saturday can make all the difference in your happy, healthy future. It’s all about self care. Because sun care IS self care. 

A new study just released found globally, melanoma diagnosis is expected to surge by 50% in the next 18 years – with a 68% increase in deaths.  Patients who have cancer treatment delayed by even one month can have a six to 13 percent higher risk of dying. 

Since melanoma in adolescents and young adults is especially aggressive, that means early detection through screening is more important than ever. It is essential. Remove the mole – remove the risk of melanoma. The key is melanoma prevention; and it’s as easy as three basic steps:

  • Wear sunscreen SPF30
  • Wear UPF 50 clothing
  • Get an annual Skin Screening with a Dermatologist.

Can’t get into a dermatologist? We’ve got you! At Claire Marie Foundation we are passionate about your skin and thrilled to bring you another day of Free Skin Screenings on May 7th for anyone 13-29 years old! 

Think it none of this applies to you? Ask the young people who were screened at our April 2nd CMF Free Skin Screenings. Nearly 15% were found to need biopsy for suspicion of melanoma. At one location alone, that number surged to 33%.   By taking time to find atypical moles early, they removed the risk of melanoma and can look forward to a healthy safe summer!

There are still plenty of appointments available at our CMF Screening Events May 7th at Johns Hopkins Dermatology at Greenspring Station, Mercy Medical Center Baltimore and SCSPhysicians in Lutherville.  Just pick a location, call and set up the appointment! It’s that easy! Free to anyone 13-29 years old!  All the info is right here:  May 2022 SCREENING DAY

Still need a little nudge? Okay, look at it this way; consider it beach prep! Remember – #awarenesssaveslives We look forward to seeing you there!

 

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Jacqueline’s Story: When It Comes to Melanoma – Expect the Unexpected

 

Is there a better time of life than 22?  All the possibilities of life are before us, ready to be explored.  In 2003, Jacqueline Smith was just 22, fresh out of college and ready to take on the world when she received devastating news; she had Stage III melanoma.  What? How could that be? She was young! She didn’t tan!  She is a woman of color.  How could she have melanoma?

Now, all these years later, Jacqueline shares her story in the hope it raises awareness that everyone is at risk for melanoma no matter their age, gender or race.  As a survivor with a career in patient advocacy and research,  Jacqueline offers this glimpse of what life is like for a young melanoma patient. 

“Sickness has always surrounded me and on November 29, 2006, I learned it had finally engulfed me.  At age 28, during the first semester of my doctoral program in sociology at Syracuse University, I learned I had recurrence of stage III melanoma.  I was devastated. The disease I thought I had beat at age 23 was rearing its ugly head again. Furthermore, the lump I had detected in my bikini line almost a year and a half earlier was not the inflamed lymph node that my gynecologist assured me it was and it was not the result of some minor infection that my primary care provider’s assistant diagnosed.  It was a lymph node filled with cancer. My gynecologist advised, “it is nothing but an inflamed lymph node. If it doesn’t bother you, don’t bother it”.  But it did bother me.  It was not painful but it was unsightly. It was firm and slow growing. Therefore, I wanted this lump removed.  The surgeon performed a needle biopsy. The result? Melanoma.

Again, I was struck with the same question: “how could this be?” I was not a fair skinned, middle-aged Caucasian woman. I was the complete opposite.  I was never a sun-worshipper and have never even entered a tanning salon. I spent all those years performing breast self-exams, watching my salt intake and praying to be saved from diabetes but never did I think I would become a skin cancer patient.  

I sought opinions from several doctors and specialists.  On December 21, 2006, I was told it would be a miracle if I survived another five years.  Needless to say, I spent that holiday season drowning in self-pity and worry mixed with anger and resentment. Though none of us know when we will reach the end, most live everyday with the promise and hope for a new day. However, receiving a cancer diagnosis quickly forces one to face their mortality.

On March 29, 2007, I had a total right groin lymphadenectomy.  I enrolled in the pegylated interferon clinical trial (a form of immunotherapy in which I had to self-administer weekly injections) and subsequently completed 3 months of radiation treatment.  Today, I am thankful to say I am cancer free.

Prior to my diagnosis, I never thought melanoma was a “serious” cancer.  When most people hear of my diagnosis, they assume I simply had a cancerous mole removed.  Few are aware of effects advanced staged melanoma.  I had 16 lymph nodes removed.  I have an eight-inch surgical scar on my right groin and I have a larger radiation scar, which creates a frame around the surgical scar. I have dots permanently tattooed on my right groin marking the radiation site.  I have two permanent scars on my abdomen marking the sight in which I had to administer my interferon injections.  As a result of both surgery and radiation, I suffer from lymphedema in right leg. To keep the lymphedema from progressing, I must wear a compression stocking on my right leg during the day and sleep in a bulky compression brace nightly.  These are things I will have to do for the rest of my life.  I also suffer from cognitive changes resulting from interferon therapy. Advanced melanoma is anything but minor. Fortunately, you can mitigate your risk of developing melanoma. Please, monitor your sub-exposure, diligently wear sunscreen and make sure to see your physician for an annual skin cancer exam.

Jacqueline currently serves in Patient Advocacy and State Government Affairs at Vertex Pharmaceuticals. She is a Doctoral Candidate with over a decade of experience in research, advocacy and cancer survivorship. She sits on a number of Boards including the Claire Marie Foundation and the Melanoma Research Foundation.

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Why is Melanoma Striking So Many Young Men?

Melanoma? It’s a girl thing. Old guys get it.  It only affects fair-skinned people. Right?  Wrong. Dead wrong.

You’ve heard us say it before; If you have skin – you are at risk for melanoma – especially adolescents and young adults who have unique hormonal and lifestyle factors which come into play. The hard truth is this; if not found early – melanoma can kill you.

This Melanoma May, we turn the spotlight on the guys! New research is focused on the surge in the number of young men  between the ages of 15 and 39 who are dying from melanoma. Between 1995 and 2014, diagnosis of melanoma in the head and neck areas increased 51%. Even more unsettling – 60% of those who died – were young men.  Men’s Health Magazine offers a deep dive into the subject! https://bit.ly/3aS21tz

So why are are adolescent boys and young men more at risk?

As in young people of all genders and races, hormones play a roll. In men, it’s believed surging levels of testosterone can kick-start melanoma making it more invasive and aggressive. Researchers at Oxford University found a  new link between higher levels of testosterone in the blood and increased risk of melanoma in men. Other factors are genetics, immune system and an active sun – soaked lifestyle! 13-39 year olds spend a ton of time in the sun, often without a thought to the need for sunscreen or UPF 50 protective clothing. Add to that the bad habit of visiting tanning booths ( did you know one time can increase your risk 75%? ). It all adds up!

Overall, diagnosis is up 253% in all young people in the last 40 years, making melanoma the second most common cancer in adolescents, and the most common cancer in young adults.

What can you do to protect yourself?  Plenty and it is SO simple!

  • Wear sunscreen every day! At least SPF30 and apply every two hours when out in the sun.  Don’t forget your ears and the back of your the neck. Be especially attentive to reapplying when swimming, sweating or going shirtless.
  • Invest in UPF50 clothing and hats for long days in the sun! It blocks 98% of the sun’s damaging rays from your skin. Regular clothing only blocks 6% of the UV rays.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from Occular Melanoma.
  • Check your body monthly for any skin or mole changes. Keep in mind, melanoma in young people can be colorless, pink or even look like a wart. Listen to that inner voice and make an appointment with a dermatologist should anything look unusual.
  • Get a full-body dermoscopy skin screening by a dermatologist every year.  Your general practitioner may be great, but understand that only a dermatologist is properly trained to catch any potential mole changes at the very earliest point.

There are a number of other factors that can come into play when it comes to melanoma in the adolescent and young adult population. You can learn more here  https://bit.ly/2QK00se  or by checking out the research section on our website www.clairemariefoundation.org

Take care of your skin. Take care of you, and be aware! Because awareness saves lives. 

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The Difference Between Melanoma and Skin Cancer – Awareness That Could Save Your Life

Let’s make one thing clear; the words “just” and “ cancer” should never be linked in the same sentence.  But due to the fact that basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas are 98 percent treatable and unlikely to spread through the body, many people think melanoma is “just” skin cancer and thus tend to delay having a dermatologist check changes in their skin or moles.  That misnomer can be deadly. Melanoma is not like other skin cancers. It is a beast within itself; extremely aggressive, moving beyond the skin, often spreading to other parts of the body. Consider this: melanoma is the cause of most skin cancer deaths, claiming one life every 50 minutes.

The risk is especially high in adolescents and young adults where melanoma is more aggressive and invasive than in older patients. https://bit.ly/37HGxyH.

The Dana-Farber Cancer Institute found if a young person develops any form of skin cancer – it is almost always melanoma.In fact diagnosis of melanoma in adolescents and young adults has jumped 253% in the last 40 years.  Melanoma doesn’t wait for COVID. It doesn’t wait until for a convenient time in your schedule.  Early detection is the key. Listen to that wise voice in your head. If you notice any changes in your skin, make an appointment with a qualified dermatologist immediately. Learn more about the differences between skin cancer and melanoma from Dermatologist and Claire Marie Medical Advisor, Dr. Diane Orlinsky, M.D., F.A.A.D. https://vimeo.com/470036400

Take care of your skin. Take care of you. Be aware; because awareness saves lives.

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Jamie’s Story: Pregnancy, Hormones and Melanoma

Pregnancy is such a joyful and stressful time! An expectant mother has so many things to consider in preparing for the arrival of her new little one – melanoma is typically is not among them. But amid the visits to the obstetrician, don’t forget to set time aside to see your dermatologist.  Hormonal changes, genetics and a suppressed immune system can create the perfect storm in the development of melanoma in pregnant women.https://cle.clinic/2X0R0hP

Jamie Martell, a young mom in Maryland was blindsided by her diagnosis.  She generously shares her story in the hopes that it will raise awareness of the unforeseen risk to young moms. 

“I was 27 years old – newly married to the man of my dreams and pregnant with our first child. A boy! All of those beautiful wonders of life I had imagined were unfolding right before my eyes.

I had heard of melanoma before, but I can assure you that I never took it seriously or thought it was something that could happen to me. To me, it was just something that happened to older people that got a a little too much sun throughout their life. 

   I was around 5 months pregnant when I noticed a mole on my thigh start to drastically change. It went from something I hardly noticed to something I could no longer ignore. My husband encouraged me for weeks to get it checked out and thankfully I finally listened. It was stage IIb Melanoma – which meant it was aggressive and growing rapidly. I was quickly scheduled for a surgery to remove the cancer and some surrounding skin. We then received the news that the surrounding skin was free of Melanoma cells and so at that point we thought I was in the clear. 

A month after delivering my son we found out how very wrong I was. Not only did we discover that Melanoma isn’t always just something you can “cut out”, but it also was thriving off of the hormones from my pregnancy

The cancer had very quickly spread to multiple lymph nodes within my body and my oncologist revealed that another surgery wouldn’t cut it. I would need to start a systemic treatment called immunotherapy.

A couple of years later, after a lot of trial and error, we were thrilled that we had finally found success in a treatment! However, a second pregnancy brought the Melanoma roaring right back into my world. I was forced to deliver our daughter (Maisie) 6 weeks early in order to start yet another treatment. 

I am so passionate that everybody should see a dermatologist annually, but especially passionate that women should see a dermatologist during their pregnancy. The hormonal changes in your body during this time can result in changes to your skin.

Something so easy and simple to do could save losing precious moments with your children, it could save the pain your family endures as they wish they could take it all on for you, it could save you from surgery after surgery and treatment after treatment…it could ultimately save your life!”

 

Jamie Martell: Wife, Mother, Melanoma Survivor

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